Some amazing things happened in Las Vegas last week, most of which I’ll share with you at a later date. Today I want to tell you about what I consider to be the most amazing of them all. And once again I find myself recalling my Dad’s affirmation that “God works in mysterious ways.”
If you’ve followed these pages you are aware that I’ve had the honor of making presentations for Redken from time to time. These presentations focus primarily on our “story” of change and the subsequent success that has been the result of those changes. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak about personal changes that I’ve made in regards to self-confidence, setting goals for myself, and moving forwards in life; in other words, many of the things that I share with you. Redken has also allowed me to mention my walk of faith in a discreet manner, so as not to offend anyone, which is certainly understandable. Be that as it may, there have been a few occasions when I’ve “pushed the envelope”, if you know what I mean!
When I accepted Ann Mincey’s (Redken’s V.P. of Global Communications) gracious offer to be involved as a presenter at Symposium, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to speak about my faith as much as I would like to. Ann is a very spiritual, grounded individual, and you can sense Ann’s spirituality without her ever mentioning it; she exudes it.
I feel safe in saying that the majority of those signing up for “Success to Significance” assumed going in that her class wouldn’t be about color or cuts because like me, Ann isn’t a stylist. They would be correct in their assumptions, in that our class was going to be about personal grounding practices, moving forward in life, and defining our professional edge. I was okay with all of that, but no mention of faith? My faith is such a huge part of my life… I would follow Ann’s lead, and hope that God’s light would shine through me. Still, I offered God an apology for accepting the invitation. Before you start laughing, let me explain something to you….
There is an affirmation, an intention that I say every morning. I began saying this right after my “epiphany” on November 5, 2006: I am a good Christian, and I spread the good news of what God has done for me whenever someone will listen. Every morning; without fail. And you know what? I try to live up to that affirmation at every opportunity. Oh, I knew that I would have a captive audience in Vegas, but I also knew that I had to respect the company that had allowed a little salon owner from Birmingham Alabama to appear on stage in an event that is two years in the planning. No talking about faith. I would keep my word to Annie and to the Redken nation!
When I offered my apology to God, I added “I believe that you opened the door to Symposium for a reason. I’m going to Vegas with an open mind and an open heart.”
Then God Took Over
The theme of this year’s Symposium was The Professional Edge, and it’s message centered around what salon owners and stylists need to do to find and implement their edge in their salons; in other words, finding their formula for success.
On the first night of Symposium there was a Grand Opening, which was held in the main auditorium at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. This was a huge event, attended by Symposium attendees and all of the Redken team (8,000+ people).
Curiously enough, the grand opening didn’t really focus on “the art of doing hair”. Oh, there was a segment that featured three of Redken’s top artists, but the theme was about the dedication required to be the best you can be, regardless of your walk in life. A martial artist, a guitarist, and two illusionists were the centerpieces of the program. After each performance, the audience was reminded that each of the artists had identified their professional edge and put in the years of work to be among the best in the world at their craft.
Giant overhead screens projected words that you would consider being catalysts in your personal quest for success. Looking up, I thought about the words as they appeared on the screen…..Professionalism. Dedication. Determination. Spirituality.
Wait…did I really see Spirituality? Yes, there it was, plain as day! I was a bit puzzled, as one usually associates spirituality with faith. Had there been a mind-shift at Redken? Had the powers-that-be come to realize that business and faith can actually go hand-in-hand? I drifted off to sleep that night turning that question over and over in my mind.
It was the first day of classes at Symposium. I’d been thinking about this day for months, and it had finally arrived!
Jackie and I grabbed a quick breakfast, and I headed to our classroom. I was the first to arrive, and I took a seat in the very last row to reflect on the day and to offer a few prayers for Ann, Scott Fortner, and myself. Scott is the owner of RED The Salon in Birmingham, Michigan, and like myself, was invited by Ann to tell his “story”. I asked God to bless our room and to give those in attendance spiritual eyes, ears, mind, and heart, so that they may see, hear, receive, and feel what the three of us had to offer.
Ann and Scott arrived, and we huddled together to go over last minute details.
As it was her classroom, Ann would begin the program to lay the groundwork for what we were trying to accomplish through sharing, and to set the tone for the hour and a half that lay ahead. She would tell her story of her early days with Redken, and her subsequent move from Los Angeles to New York City, the site of Redken’s corporate offices. And she would show the audience a plaque that made the cross-country trip with her; a plaque that once hung in her Grandma’s kitchen that reads “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.”
Scott would follow Ann to tell his incredible story of Riches to Rags to Richness. In a nutshell, Scott owned a salon that was unbelievably successful, survived a walk-out of 90% of his staff, and through perseverance and dogged determination, rebuilt his salon to what it once was. Wow! He would also cite his unwavering faith during his journey.
I would be the “closer”, a term used in baseball for the last pitcher in a game. I would tell our story of change, then talk about “grounding practices” that I use every day, which are aiming high, putting others first, and daily meditation.
I’m sorry this is taking so long….I’m getting to the good part, but I felt like I should “set the table” for what came next…..
With Ann’s permission, at a certain point in my presentation, I was going to ask the audience of 100+ if I could speak to them on a personal level about my faith. If anyone in attendance objected, I would just move on to the next thing.
Well, I did ask, and no one objected, so I began to tell them the story of my tattoo (see The Tattoo, posted 12/15/2008). Not only did I tell the story, but I actually took my coat off, pulled up my sleeve, and proudly showed it to them! What an exhilarating and humbling moment that was for me. Astoundingly, I was able to do the same in the remaining five classes; I guess some things are just meant to be.
I’ll close this post with a few anomalies:
In Las Vegas, Nevada, where images of casinos and money are commonplace, the focus of my presentation was putting people ahead of money.
In a small conference room, on a small stage, in “Sin City”, I was able to share with those in attendance what God has done for me.
At Symposium, on Redken’s grandest stage, where business should be the order of the day, God opened the door allowing me to make more than just a “mention” of my faith.
You were so right, Dad. God does work in mysterious ways.
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Greetings from Las Vegas!
Jackie and I are here in Vegas attending Symposium, REDKEN’s every-other-year gathering, celebrating its position as a global leader in the salon industry. Symposium is a three day event that is attended by 7,500+ salon owners and stylists from around the world, sharing education, industry news, meeting new people, catching up with old acquaintances, and of course, having a LARGE time!
I have been honored and humbled by receiving an invitation to be a co-presenter at Symposium this year. Honored because this is such a huge event for the REDKEN ‘nation’; humbled because there are so many other hard-working salon owners with a message to share, a story to tell, and wisdom to pass along; yet here I am. Just two years ago Jackie and I were first-time attendees to Symposium, pretty much overwhelmed by the enormity of the spectacle. Here we are, two years later, grateful for being a part of it all. God does indeed work in mysterious ways!
I’ve briefly mentioned REDKEN on these pages before. I’ve told you about the part this company played in our ‘story’, about its role in our salon’s growth, and in my growth as a businessman.
Today I want to talk about another lesson, perhaps the most important business lesson that I learned from REDKEN. This lesson was not about marketing, imaging, service, or promotions. Nothing to do with productivity in the salon. Shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, or color? No. Surprisingly enough, this lesson had nothing to do with money!
You may be sitting there thinking “Okay, this post is in the category of ‘Business’. If it’s all about business, how can it not be about money?” What can it be about?
It is about putting people first in business. “People”, in this instance, being defined as our guests, and those that worked with us.
For years I always thought that I was putting people first; I was wrong. I was actually putting money first, and people second! Clients brought the money in, and our service providers did the work that kept the clients coming back. As long as the money was coming in, I could, and would, tolerate anyone.
Looking back now, I realize that I put money ahead of everyone; God, Jackie, sons Brian and Christian, my parents, and friends. Everyone. Even myself. My own personal feelings and self esteem took a back seat to my need for the almighty dollar. Sad. True.
Oh, the dollars came alright. I mean, we (Jackie and I) weren’t rich (in terms of money), but we never really wanted for anything, in the way of material possessions. I guess in the eyes of most observers, we were what most would consider as being successful.
What I saw….
In my eyes (which were the ones that counted the most to me), we were partially successful. Let’s see if I can explain this to you……
Jackie has been “behind the chair” for more years than I am allowed to say! In the soon-to-be twenty years that we have been married I have seen her change the lives of so many people, simply by giving them a new look. That first time I witnessed the process I was amazed; I had a hard time believing that the woman “strutting her stuff” out of the salon was the same person that had entered less than an hour earlier! Since that day, I’ve always said that a hair stylist can change someone’s outlook on life by changing their look in life. What a gift. What a blessing.
And it wasn’t just Jackie; as a salon owner not behind the chair (I’m not a stylist) I was surrounded by a group of individuals (working for us) that had the opportunity to make people smile every day! They had a chance to make people feel good about themselves, a chance, in some small way, to make a difference in the world.
I’ll admit it; I was jealous. Green with envy. Eat up with it. I was even jealous of Jackie. From day one of owning our first salon, I made a 100% commitment to its success. I worked as hard as anyone, as long as anyone, and wasn’t too proud to do anything that needed to be done. But it was everyone else in our salon that had the privilege of making people feel good about themselves. What made it even worse for me was that the majority of those that worked with us took their talent, their “gift” for granted. Sometimes I wanted to slap ‘em and say “Don’t you realize what you’re doing? You’re taking your talent, your chance to make a difference, and wasting it! What’s wrong with you?” Of course, I never was brave enough to do that; I opted to wallow in my own misery, and to live with the flickering hope that I might some day make a difference in people’s lives.
When we relocated our salon in 2005 (see Our Story) things started to change. Reinventing our business, and the way that we conducted our business, actually had me feeling a little better about myself. Our new salon was growing at a remarkable rate (we surpassed my first-year “ideal” projections in the first six months!) I was becoming more and more proud of both the salon and the amazing group of people with which we had surrounded ourselves.
Time for me to feel good about me, right? Wrong. Something was still missing, and I had no idea what it was. I’m sure that Jackie was thinking “What is it going to take to make him happy?” I was thinking the same thing, but more along the lines of “What in the hell is wrong with me? Will I ever be satisfied?”
In May of 2006 Salon M² became a REDKEN salon, from the front door to the back, and everywhere in between. It’s not that we really chose REDKEN. I mean, we did, but actually, REDKEN chose us!
The people of REDKEN made a commitment to our salon. I guess you could say that they made an investment in our salon, assisting in the transition from one hair care line to REDKEN. This was followed by education for our team, not only about product knowledge (which one would expect to receive), but also about learning better, earning better, and living better. I was made aware of free resources that were available to REDKEN salons as a means of increasing revenues. REDKEN gave us more support in the first six months of our ‘partnership’ that other companies had given us in 16+ years!
The people of REDKEN made a commitment to me, not just as a business owner, but as a person. I believed (because there are some things in life that you just know) that these people were committed to helping me grow in confidence, strength, and character. They were committed to make me a better person, and I cannot begin to tell you what that meant to me then, and what it still means to me today.
Look. I’m not naïve enough to believe that money had nothing to do with REDKEN’s commitment to us. I mean, if we’re one of their salons, and they help us to grow our business, we’re going to sell more REDKEN, right? Of course! That only stands to reason. If you own a company that’s not a non-profit organization, your intent is to be profitable.
It’s the approach to growing salons, or of more importance, the order of priorities in REDKEN’s philosophy of doing business, that had the most impact on me.
I’d liken it to planting a seed. When that seed sprouts and begins to grow, you nurture it and give it all that it needs to reach its full potential. This is the REDKEN way of growing people; not just people, but successful people. Plant that seed of hope in people. Watch them grow. Enjoy the harvest. Live in abundance.
As we began to grow as a member of the REDKEN family, I decided to use that very same approach in our own salon. I made a commitment to put our people, their needs, their welfare, and their well-being ahead of my quest for the dollar. For the first time in my life, money was no longer going to be my master.
Something amazing happened. Our business grew. And grew. And grew. It grew at a rate that astounded not only Jackie, myself, and our team, but people within the REDKEN family. In eighteen months Salon M² became a REDKEN Elite Salon (that’s really good!) and was a nominee for a global award given in our industry. Even during the economic crises of 2008, our salon continued to move forward.
From a personal perspective, something even more incredible happened. I grew. And grew. And grew. My heart softened and opened up to people; not just those in our salon, but all people. And to myself. Putting people first, serving people, trying to help them to “walk a better walk”, has become my purpose in life. Ghandi once wrote “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I live it every day. The desire is with me at all times; it never goes away, and I hope that it never will.
And you know what? The money doesn’t matter!
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Applying for a job at Salon M²? The first thing you have to do is fill out an application for employment, which consists of two pages.
The first page is what you would expect to see when applying for a job: personal information, education, experience, and references, which is nothing out of the ordinary. You’ll probably consider it to be almost too easy to fill out; it’s what some would call a “no-brainer”.
It’s when you turn to the second page and begin to read that a look of bewilderment may register on your face. You may even sneak a peak to see if I’ve noticed your look of surprise. If you do, you can bet that I’ll be looking, and that I’ll be smiling back. I always love it when that happens!
Okay, before you come in to fill out an application just to satisfy your curiosity, I’ll tell you what’s on the page.
What are the top five priorities in your life?
What are your long-term career goals?
How can you best achieve these goals?
At first glance these three questions seem relatively easy, don’t they?
But I’m not asking you to glance. I’m asking you to really think about the answers to these questions; I mean really think about it. Why? Two reasons:
As a leader in our business, I must know where you want to go before I can attempt to guide you towards your destination. If money is the top priority in your life, we will work towards that end. If your family is on the top of your list, I’ll know that we need to grow your career while making sure that your schedule gives you plenty of time at home. If God is at the top of your list, we’ll focus on career growing while implementing your faith in doing so. You see, once we determine your priorities we can plot a course for your goals, and how best to achieve them. What I want is for you to enjoy your journey as much as your destination.
That’s the first reason. Have you figured out the second?
Most of us (myself included) never take the time to set our priorities, to make a list of what’s really important to us. I remember the clarity of purpose I received the first time I answered these questions. Even more enlightening was answering those very same questions six months later. It’s amazing how our priorities change with time, achievement, and living life. What’s important to you today may be of little or no significance in a month, or a year.
So go ahead, fill out the second page. Answer the three questions. Do it for yourself. Be honest with your answers. You may be surprised.
And don’t worry; I’m not looking. I promise.